On a bright fall afternoon in 1986 I stood on the banks of Lagunitas Creek at a bend we locals call White House Pool. My 35mm camera was on a tripod. I felt a mix of emotions–elation as I watched this rare occurrence of popcorn clouds reflecting on the still waters below and fear that what I saw was just too much to express with an image made with my camera.
It had been three years since I had decided to dedicate my life to becoming an artist/photographer. Most of that time was spent in mastering the technical aspects of photography. Now, hesitating, I wondered if I would have something worthwhile to say. So, as I stood on the banks of the river with a magnificent tableau begging to be photographed, the time had come. It was as if God had reached down from the clouds to shake me by the shoulders, saying “Well, what are you waiting for?”
So, I went for it. When I first saw the scene, the water was still with the clouds mirrored below. As I looked through the lens, a gentle breeze started, slightly rippling the reflections on the water. I made a horizontal photo first, and then quickly turned the camera for a vertical shot. Click. Suddenly, the wind intensified, erasing all the reflections. The scene was gone!
Back in the darkroom I looked through the wet film as it hung drying. The beauty of the light pouring through the reversed image was extraordinary. I looked forward to printing the positives. When the first prints appeared, almost magically from the development tray, I began to feel hope that I finally had something to say, to show. Next I would have to decide which of the two compositions I would put out into the world.
I decided to feature the vertical and began making prints. Clouds, White House Pool (vert.) became a signature photograph of my early landscape work. It provided entry to Viewpoints Gallery curated by the late Lee Flynn. Lee took me on as a featured photographer and gave me my first exhibits.
Clouds, White House Pool (vert.) began to sell. Limited-editions went out to the world. It was used as premium during a fund-raiser by the Bolinas Museum, and was the featured artwork used to promote the West Marin Music Festival. It opens my book, Point Reyes 20 Years.
Meanwhile, Clouds, White House Pool (horiz.) the first exposure I made that afternoon, became an orphan. A few miniatures and a couple of numbered prints were sold early on. I began overlooking it and I stopped showing it.
The other day, a visitor to my gallery who had seen one of the rare horizontal miniatures, asked if I could make a print for her. I located the negative and as I made her print, I wondered why this beautiful image had been abandoned. Had I chosen the wrong version to feature in my catalog? As I worked on the orphaned print I became more and more drawn to it. Memories of that afternoon, so long ago, flooded me. I decided to add it to my catalog and made a large version for the front window of my gallery.
So now, I’d like to know—which one do YOU like best? Please take a closer look via the links below. Write to me here: firstname.lastname@example.org., or post your comments on this blog page. I’m all ears, and if you don’t mind, please tell me why you prefer one over the other!
Clouds, White House Pool (horiz.)
Clouds, White House Pool (vert.)